News ID: 264764
Published: 0140 GMT January 24, 2020

Muslim women occupy Indian capital streets over controversial citizenship law

Muslim women occupy Indian capital streets over controversial citizenship law

In the Indian capital’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood, Muslim women staged a sit-in against a new citizenship law that has unleashed massive protests across the country.

For more than a month, the women have taken turns maintaining an around-the-clock sit-in on a highway that passes through their neighborhood. They chant anti-government slogans, some cradling babies, others laying down rugs to make space for more people to sit, AP reported.

The movement has slowly spread nationwide, with many women across the country staging their own sit-ins.

Through numerous police barricades, women trickle in from the winding arterial alleys of Shaheen Bagh.

The neighborhood rings with chants of “Inquilab Zindabad,” which means “long live the revolution!”

As night draws closer, women as old as 90 huddle together under warm blankets, falling asleep on cheap mattresses.

The women, like demonstrators elsewhere in the country, have been demanding the revocation of the citizenship law approved last month. The law provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.

Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.

“Someone had to tell the government that their black laws won’t be accepted. So, as mothers, we decided to protest,” said Najma Khatoon, 62.

Khatoon and other protesters in Shaheen Bagh view the citizenship law as part of a bigger plan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government to implement a nationwide register of citizens, which they fear could lead to the deportation and detention of Muslims.

Modi and other leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party have repeatedly said Indian citizens will not be affected by the new law, and that if a nationwide register is ever conducted, there will be no religion column.

The gathering at Shaheen Bagh started with a handful of women appalled by the violence at a nearby Muslim university during protests against the law on Dec. 15.

A common refrain among the women at Shaheen Bagh is that they are there to ensure that the secular India plotted out by independence-era leaders remains for younger generations.





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